Friday, January 04, 2008

From The Archives Vol. I

The Colonel realized on New Year's Day that, as of last Fall, he'd been surfing for 21 years.

Compared to most of his friends, who started surfing when they were like 7, that's actually not very long. It is, however, long enough that knee-high slop at T-Street doesn't exactly get the bowels rumbling.

Now this doesn't mean the Colonel lost his Yater Spoon to a Navy patrol boat or that he isn't regularly freezing his ass off this Norcal water that somehow found its way down to Trestles last month. It just means that huffing and puffing into backed-off bumps at Cottons doesn't exactly make for riveting surf reports.

Which means it's time to reach back into the old archives (as Weird Old Uncle Frank used to say) and talk story...

DISCLAIMER: The Colonel is a good guy. The Colonel has a wife and three kids. He likes puppies and old people. He donates to good causes, protested the start of the war in Iraq, and supports the Giants year in and year out despite being, on average, as old as he is. He was, however, a teenage boy at one point who did a lot of dumb shit. He was a 20-something young man who did a lot of dumb shit. The Colonel doesn't believe in revisionist history though. And these stories, even if they reflect the behaviors of an idiotic adolescent wearing Croakies and Frogskins and UGGS all at the same time, are pretty funny. So please, when you see the Colonel out at Middles, don't snake him because of past trespasses. It's ancient history and he has long since paid his dues...with interest. Plus, the Colonel surfs pretty fast for a fat guy in a little suit, and might just run you over.

So without further ado...

Way back in the Year Of Our Lord, One Thousand Nine Hundred And Ninety, when I was a senior in high school, I hung out with two different groups of surfers. One group thought of themselves as soul surfers, which was a trendy concept at the time...a sort of backlash to the iridium-Oakley-Blade-wearing, day-glo, floating-over-the-barrel, air-launching Ritchie Collins types who were so popular in 1990.

The other group, well, they wore iridium Oakley Blades, sported a lot of day-glo, liked to float over the barrel, and tried admirably to launch the aforementioned airs.

There were things about both groups that I liked. The soul guys were better conversationalists, which was nice when stuck in Hwy 17 traffic. The day-glo guys were funnier and more obnoxious which, truth be told, was also nice when stuck in traffic.

One thing I really liked about the day-glo boys was that they weren't picky about waves. The soul boys, who could spend an entire day driving back and forth between Pleasure Point and Steamer Lane in search of acceptable conditions, sometimes liked to talk about surfing a bit more than they actually liked to do it. The day-glo boys, well, fuck that. They had chicks to rig, fights to get into, classes to cut, and rap CDs to shoplift. They were busy and didn't have time to discuss the finer points of squash tails or whether or not surfing was a sport or a way of life.

So, when it came time to paddle out and boost those coveted 2-inch airs, Santa Cruz, which had better waves but was a hour drive from Shallow Alto, was rarely an option. Especially on a school day. Why not just huck our shit in the car, zip over the hill to Half Moon Bay, pull into a few closeout beachbreak barrels, steal some candy bars from the 7-11, and be back in time to take a shower and go fuck one of the cute sophomores who just broke up with her boyfriend?

Hey, sign me up.

And that's what we did in 1990 (minus the sophomore part, which I involuntarily substituted with the proverbial-but-nonetheless-accurate magazine under the mattress.)

So, (and this is important, so pay attention) a big part of the drive to Half Moon Bay in those days was a key stretch along Sand Hill Road. And for some reason, Sand Hill, which in 2008 is better known for its proliferation of big money Silicon Valley Venture Capital firms than its link to Hwy 92 and the ocean, was also a popular road with cyclists.

Considering I've never ridden anything other than a Huffy dirt bike, a paper route 10-speed, and a beach cruiser, I, to this day, have no idea why. But there they were, every day. Flying along with the cars, black padded butts in the air as we drove uphill, teardropped helmeted heads crouched over the handlebars as we drove downhill.

There and back, every day of the week, men and women, powering away on expensive bicycles like smooth-legged Hell's Angels.

Now, remember earlier when I mentioned that the day-glo boys were obnoxious and how that could be a nice thing when stuck in traffic? Good, because that becomes the main crux of our story here.

The fact is, when I say the day-glo boys were obnoxious, I mean OBNOXIOUS. Take a minute and think about teenagers and all the things that terrify you about them. Think about yelling from car windows. Think about bare asses and empty beer cans and driving too fast and all the other universal behaviors that should have every 17 year-old boy locked up in a cage until he's 22.

That was us. Really, it was them. Call it the "3rd Personality Phenomenon" or whatever, but when we were together, it was us.

Which means that a 40 year-old Palo Alto hippie with with a beard, Apple stock options, a $4,000 bike, a skintight yellow jersey, and a rear-view mirror jutting off the side of his Bell bicycle helmet, was nothing more than a source of entertainment.

We yelled at them. We horfed sunflower seed shells as we drove by. We blasted Public Enemy and Metallica at full volume with every window open. We stuck our asses out the windows and farted.

It was an endless source of amusement during an otherwise incredibly boring drive.

We discussed hurling an entire plate of AM/PM nachos out the window with extra cheese sauce and chili. But we were broke and usually hungry after a surf, so that never panned out. We discussed high-speed pissing but that sounded potentially messy. We even discussed the finer points of stealing a fanny pack from around someone's waist at 30 MPH, but that combination of finesse and danger freaked even us out.

Then one day it simply happened.

We were headed home, 3 of us squashed in my 1968 Karmann Ghia with boards strapped to the roof (NOT a cool car amongst the day-glo crew, but it was a gift from my Grandfather who was convinced it was a collector's item, and we couldn't always take Richie's* Vanilla Ice convertible Mustang 5.0, so someone else had to drive once in a while). And there, up ahead, was big, round, beautiful, shiny ass.

In reality it was the backside of a spandex-laden female, powering her way up a long incline with her head down and her butt up. And what a butt it was.

"Pull over, dude!" Richie screamed.

"Yeah, dude," Christian yelled over the sound of the roof rack straps humming and vibrating like the Spruce Goose on takeoff. "Let's slap that chick on the ass!"

Ever seen that Simpsons scene where Principal Skinner bends over to pick up "a shiny penny", wiggling his derriere in the air as Bart tries to will his slingshot back into his pocket, ultimately giving in to fate after Skinner's butt cheeks actually start to talk and encourage Bart to take a shot?

It was kind of like that.

Before I could think better of it (and let's be honest, had I actually been given a chance to think better of it, I would not have), I pulled the dark green Ghia up alongside the woman, Richie reached out the passenger window, slapped her flat on the ass, and yelled in his distinctive semi-inland patois of Jeff Spicoli and Flava Flav, "Keep up the good work, baby!"

And off into the sunset we drove, cackling all the way back to Embarcadero Road.

Now jump ahead a few weeks. Maybe even a month or two.

I've forgotten all about the big butt. I'm down in Big Sur with the soul surfers. We've just spent the weekend camping at Sand Dollar, surfing Willow Creek, smoking pot, and listening to Allen's brand-new Robert Johnson box set, which I hated even more than I hated Zeppelin (in a rare bit of cliquey consistency, my R.E.M. and U2 tapes were not allowed to be seen or heard amongst the soul surfer OR the day-glo crew).

As per usual, we planned to stop at my grandparents' house in Carmel on the way home for showers and possibly a free lunch at the tennis club. Also as per usual, I called home from a pay phone at a gas station in Pacific Valley. But in an odd twist, I did NOT get my Dad's usually happy voice on the other end. Instead, I got a combination of fear and stone cold seriousness.

I didn't even get a greeting or any questions about sharks.

"Hey Dad."

"Where are you?"

"Uh, Pacific Valley."

"Have you been to Carmel yet?"

"Uh, no."

"Have you seen your Grandparents yet?"

"Uh, not yet...we were just about to stop by."



"Do NOT go to your Grandparents' house."


"Your Grandfather wants your head on a platter. He is PISSED."

"WHY? What the hell did I do?"

"Did you slap some woman on the ass from your car?"

OH SHIT. Cue slow-but-fast horrific revelation that something bad you've done has just caught up with you, blindsided you from behind a tree, and has your balls in a vise...all before you've even had a chance to so much as think of an excuse.

How the fuck did she find us? Why the fuck did she call my grandparents? Am I going to jail?


"Did you SLAP some WOMAN on the ASS while driving your GRANDFATHER'S CAR?"

Oh fuuuuuuuuuck. Now cue slow-but-fast horrific revelation that just because your Grandfather gave you a car, didn't mean that he changed the title on it and that if someone looked up the license plate number in a moment of ass-slapped fury, they'd get ol' Sydney on the phone instead of stupid ol' you.

"You picked the wrong woman to slap on the ass, buddy. You hit a lawyer with a chip on her shoulder, and she memorized your license plate number, called the police, and the Portola Valley Sheriff's department just called up your Grandfather and accused him of assault."


"And if he sees you right now, he's going to take away your car, then kill you."

And then it just slipped out of my mouth.

"I didn't do it."

In full, Bart Simpson, non-ironic glory, I just said it. Matter of fact. Not a quiver. Not a hum or a haw.

"Richie said he knew the girl and asked me to pull over. I pulled over and he slapped her on the ass and told her to keep up the good work. He laughed and we drove away. That's it."

"We obviously he DIDN'T know that girl."


"Okay, well lay low. Don't even slow down in Carmel. Just come home."

"No prob."

"I'll call your Grandfather and try to explain what happened."

That's all it took. I didn't do it.

My Old Man called his Old Man, explained my fish story, which he then passed on to the Sheriff, who then passed it on to the angry lawyer. She cooled off...maybe went for a bike ride or something...and that was that.

After passing my close call along to the day-glo crew, I did, however, ensure that Richie was now slapping every chick at school on the ass and cackling his new catchphrase in full Flava Spicoli glory.

Keep up the good work, Baby!

So help me, it became the catchphrase of the Spring of '91.

The Colonel says, "We were teenagers once...and stupid."

*Again, names have been changed to protect the not-at-all-innocent-but-all-grown-up-and-long-since-repaid-their-debts-to-society-via-karma.